By Clara Prince, Key Radio intern
This is part 5 of a series discussing, Who Is Jesus?
Read part 1 - The Ultimate Question,
          part 2 - Flawless Character,
          part 3 - His Revolutionary Ministry,
          part 4 - Bold Words
The death of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the most profound moments in all of history: Gary Habermas, American historian and New Testament scholar, states in The Truth Project, “Even atheist scholars recognize the death and crucifixion of Christ as being historical.” Jesus was killed by crucifixion - the cruelest form of torture and death executed by Romans. It was their job to extract maximum suffering and absolute death.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus experienced a beating called flogging, where a soldier would strike the victim more than 39 times using a whip of braided leather with sharp bits of bone and metal balls. These lashes would result in deep bruises, contusions, and deep cuts in the flesh (The Case For Christ, Metherall, M.D., PH.D., pg 195). This would at the least result in extreme blood loss, but people have been known to die from flogging alone, before even being crucified. “This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn't there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.” (Metherall, pg 196).
This can be seen in the four gospel accounts: Jesus collapses while carrying the cross up to Calvary and He says, “I thirst.” (John 19:28, NIV). Not only was He flogged but He was severely humiliated with a crown of thorns pressed on His head.
Crucifixion is a form of death that is executed slowly and painfully, where Jesus' wrists and feet were nailed to the cross with spikes five to seven inches long.
Metherall states, “It's important to understand that the nail would go through… the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.” He goes on to say that the pain was absolutely unbearable. “In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross’. Think of that: they needed to create a new word, because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion.’” (Metherall, pg 198).
The causes of Jesus' death would be asphyxiation, respiratory acidosis, cardiac arrest, and as a result of extreme blood loss – he would ultimately succumb to heart failure. To confirm His death, a Roman soldier stabbed a spear into His side, “The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid - the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion - came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel.” (Metherall, pg 199).
All experts and historians agree that Jesus undoubtedly died on the cross, however, there are outlying theories arguing against Jesus’ death to explain His appearances after the cross. The main theory arguing against Jesus’ death is the swoon theory: Jesus did not die on the cross but only fainted and between the time He was put in the tomb and Sunday morning, He revived. This theory is not backed up by medical and historical evidence. Romans were professional executors and they wouldn’t risk Jesus surviving. Additionally, Jesus was buried in a tomb with a stone sealing the entrance. If Jesus did survive, He would have been in extremely poor condition and He would not have had the strength to move the rock to escape the tomb. He was stretched on the cross and as a result, His arms were pulled out of their sockets; there is no way He could have moved the rock alone. Also, His feet were pierced with nails and He would not have been able to walk. Furthermore, it is documented that Roman soldiers were standing guard outside the tomb. It is impossible that Jesus survived, removed His linen clothing, moved the rock, and escaped the guards’ notice.
Finally, we know that Jesus made several appearances to His disciples and others after His death. Jesus’ disciples would not have believed Him to be the Messiah in that pathetic condition; they would not have proclaimed Him to be the Son of God and the conqueror of death. They would not have been inspired to proclaim this message that we would someday be resurrected like Christ, or be willing to die for that message. This theory, in addition to other outlying theories, have no evidence-based foundation; it is impossible Jesus could have survived His torture and crucifixion. There is no doubt, Jesus was dead.
Clara Prince is a high school intern at Key Radio and has been a volunteer since 2018. She currently resides in Provo, Utah and enjoys being on the Timpview Marching Band Drumline.

1 Comment

Thom Waters - August 21st, 2023 at 2:09pm

This belief that Jesus actually died at his crucifixion is one of the easiest “beliefs” to dispel of all the “facts” presented to substantiate the Christian faith. It begins with debunking this notion that Jesus was beaten to a “near death” state before the cross. Debunking this begins with exposing certain apologetic frauds like Lee Strobel and Alexander Metherell who simply make things up not found in scripture, formally known as eisegesis, to create a certain picture that supports their narrative. For example, Metherall’s statement that Jesus collapses on his way to Calgary is pure fiction. While apparently true that Simon the Cyrene carries the crossbar to Calgary, we simply do not know why. Perhaps it serves as a form of obeisance to Jesus as King of the Jews. We simply do not know. We do know that the text never states that Jesus collapses in his “near death” condition. I recommend that you read the verses in Luke 23:26-31. Do these sound like the words spoken by a man just clinging to death? This “minimal fact” that Jesus died is simply a logical necessity to begin the resurrection proposition/hypothesis. It is nothing more than an assumption with virtual “no proof”. Even the spear thrust in John’s gospel can be shown to be very suspect and probably a fabrication, easily demonstrated. Christian apologists, especially evidentialists, can be exposed as relying on very suspect so-called facts. Most of them and their surrogates are petrified by the truth, partly why they make stuff up. It’s another reason why they resort to the “false equivalency” between being crucified and death. Crucifixion is a process unlike a beheading. If you can prove factually that someone was beheaded you don’t need “proof” that the person died. This is not so with a crucifixion. At what point does the crucified victim die. After five minutes, 30 minutes, 3 hours, 3days? But to say that Jesus died because he was crucified is utter nonsense. You would need some proof to that claim. Every “proof” offered by even leading apologists can be called into question. Not much left but a mere assertion standing on shaky ground. The strength of their argument is built on conjecture, eisegesis, and pretend. The actual death of Jesus on the cross has never been and can never be established historically or with a series of “proofs”. I have debated many of these famous apologists in private correspondences and none have accepted my challenge to a public debate.

Too much to lose I suspect.

Thanks for reading. Stay curious. Thom Waters.

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